Stress can be rather elusive, as it creeps up on us in many forms. It can petrify us with panic. It can stall us in front of a crowd. It can prevent us from stepping out of our comfort zone. It has the ability to take over and make us feel such unease in our body. It doesn’t have to control us however. The key to taking back control over stress and fear is to understanding it and knowing what to do. All that remains after that is to apply what we know.
A lot of people, myself included, tend to be very sensitive to the stimuli around us. If there is too much of it, we feel uncomfortable. We may begin to focus on ourselves, a little too much, which ultimately is counter-productive since we focus on the negative aspects of ourselves. If you’ve ever felt stress in your body, you might have felt it as pressure on your chest, shortness of breath, speechlessness, clammy hands, stomach ache, queesiness, etc. The first thing a person typically does when feeling any of these is focus on it. ‘’What’s wrong with me!’’ One might stress about being stressed. One might feel then that they are what is wrong and that to feel this uneasiness is not okay. It doesn’t feel good, why would it be okay. Right?
The first thing one can apply is to change one’s thought pattern. My therapist always tells me ‘’It is what it is.’’ It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good thing, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. It is what it is, simply. ‘’So I have this stomach ache, all right, what can I do about it now.’’ Just a simple change in thought pattern can help make one feel less wrong and able to take back control over a stressful situation. ‘’All right, I just forgot what I’m supposed to say next at this conference.’’ Well, what’s next? Believe it or not, the answers usually flow quite easily into a relaxed mind. My mother often tells me to ‘’Breathe. Just breathe.’’ And it’s really that straight forward. Taking a few quick moments to pause and take even just one slow, steady breath, is enough to help clear your mind.
There are also tons of things you can apply before being in a situation you know will be stressful. For example, in a business meeting, cue cards are always a good way to ensure you can get back on track if you forget what to say next. Making a list of things to do is a good way to get your thoughts down on paper without your mind flying from one thought to another.
Another good thing to do, is to identify beforehand, stressful factors about a certain situation, or those that can cause too much stimulation, and then figure out how to reduce or remove some of those over-stimulating, and thus over-stressful, aspects. This ‘’tip’’ I got from a book I’m reading called ‘’The Highly Sensitive Person’’ by Elaine N. Aron. Ph.D.. If you find yourself feeling anxious a lot of the time and feeling highly sensitive, then I highly recommend this book to you. As much as the book addresses some of the other underlying issues one may have that can cause stress and anxiety, it also addresses what to do to help step out of one’s bubble and enjoy doing it.
First thing to do is, of course, to acknowledge that something you are planning on doing is stressing you out. The next thing to do is to identify what about it is doing that. Let me give you a simple example. The other week I had to go to the hairdresser’s to get my hair redyed. I knew it would take a long time and I was feeling very stressed about getting out of the house (as it did take 4 hours). I was able to identify that I was afraid to feel panicky in public. So, I decided to make my appointment with my hairdresser friend, whom I trust. The other thing that stressed me was taking the bus and metro; all those people, all those germs, all that noise, all that travelling. So to reduce the stress of going, I coordinated with my husband for him to drive me there instead. That way, I was travelling in a familiar vehicle, I could chit chat with someone I know. Once I arrived, I was able to tell my friend about my stress levels, so he reassured me and that was that. I felt fine and comfortable and more importantly, relaxed.
The same thing can be applied to a meeting or an interview or anything that is new, different, and out of one’s routine. Once you identify what about it is causing you anxiety, you can figure out what can be done to reduce those stressful factors. Change up the time of the meeting perhaps. Get a lift from someone. You can also find something familiar in a situation that is unfamiliar. So make comparisons. Maybe there is a bakery next to the place where you have an interview that reminds you of something near your place or of someone you know. You can also, in the moment, find something tangible to focus on. You might be sitting in a restaurant, waiting, alone. Instead of turning your focus on yourself and how uncomfortable you may be feeling sitting there all by yourself, perhaps you begin to look at the patterns on the tablecloth, or perhaps you are counting the lights on the chandelier. If you are focusing on something exterior to you, then you are not focused on your body and what’s not comfortable within your body.
So those are all good things to know for the short term. What about the long term, what can you do that will have benefits on your stress levels on a more permanent level? Yoga and meditation are great sources of relaxation. And you don’t need to be an expert either. There are apps that can help you learn basic techniques that will change how you deal with stress. One good such app is Headspace, from Apple. It provides a series of short guided meditation sessions, which can also be done when in a hurry. Such apps are a great way to insert some relaxation into a busy routine without too much worry or effort on your part.
If you want to take it a step further and practice more full on yoga and meditation, Hemi-Sync can be a good accompaniment. On hemi-sync.com, you’ll find all sorts of brainwave sounds/songs. Some are for relaxation, some will stimulate concentration. There are plenty of choices to choose from. There exists a wide variety to suit all our minds and bodies.
Meditation can also be applied in everyday things. There may be something that you enjoy doing that will put you into a meditative state. For me, it’s playing the piano. It clears my mind, I let go of all else, I become focused and relaxed. For my mother, it’s doing the dishes. Or anything that involves the flow of water. For someone else, it could be walking or dancing. Anything that helps clear your mind and relax you is good to do every day.
Here are a few helpful links that will help you on your path to a stress-free life. It takes time and patience to apply everything we learn, but once it becomes second-nature, it becomes that much easier to manage stress and anxiety.
The Highly Sensitive Person – website
The Highly Sensitive Person – Book on Amazon
By guest blogger Celinka Serre of https://binkyproductions.wordpress.com/celinka-serre/